Gear Up for Insidious: Chapter 2 with a Look Back at Insidious

James Wan's INSIDIOUS

“It’s not the house that is haunted.  It’s your son.”

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_tag_theSkinnyHaunted houses.  Demon possession.  Seances.  The Further.  Astral Projection.  For the Lambert family, any hope of having a normal life gradually fades after their young son Dalton falls into a non-waking state.  As they struggle to make sense of what’s happening to their son, Renai and Josh are overcome with a feeling of never being alone.  Not quite.  Renai is tormented by noises and visions of things that aren’t there.  The events escalate until the family decides to move in hopes of getting away from whatever seeks to torment them.  But, once installed in their new home, things only become worse.  When Josh’s mother suggests they call in an expert, the Lamberts aren’t nearly prepared to learn the truth about what’s happening to their family.

Starring Patrick Wilson as Josh Lambert, Rose Byrne as Renai Lambert, Ty Simpkins as Dalton Lambert, Barbara Hershey as Lorraine Lambert, Lin Shaye as Elise Rainier, Leigh Whannell as Specs, and Angus Sampson as Tucker, Insidious is the 2011 supernatural horror film directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell – the team that brought us Saw.

James Wan's INSIDIOUS

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_tag_letsTalkI am a big fan of James Wan and of screenwriter Leigh Whannell.  The duo have a consistency about them that borders on the unreal.  What’s more, even though their work feels familiar, it almost never feels obvious or predictable.  I’m also a fan of the concept of astral projection.  Perhaps dismissed as too “new age”, or misunderstood altogether, the subject of astral projection has been much underused in film.  I’m happy to say that Insidious makes fun and creative use of the concept.  I’m also a fan of Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring, Little Children, Angels in America) whose resume boasts some complicated, nuanced performances that I’ve enjoyed watching time and again.

There.  With my biases set out, let’s talk.

James Wan's INSIDIOUS

Insidious is a rarity.  Made for about $1.5M and rated PG-13, Insidious was able to do something other films in the genre often only dream of – turn a relatively respectable profit: $90+M.  By capitalizing on a larger audience (and being widely entertaining) this modest horror film cashed in and it did so with very little violence and next to no bloodshed.  Does the PG-13 rating and lack of violence/gore mean it isn’t a “real” horror film?

Hell-to-the-no.

James Wan's INSIDIOUS

The horror factor of Insidious is, by necessity, internal – the fear of a parent that their child will be injured, the fear of a child of being alone, the fear of what lies in the darkness beyond our senses.  James Wan does a masterful job of using gothic-style scares to sculpt an atmospheric and spine-tingling film.

Sure, there are moments that may feel a bit stagey, even Disneyland-ish, but remember you’re not watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, here.  This film also is meant to be enjoyed by a younger set.  A set filled with, perhaps, fewer biases and jaded sensibilities as yourself.  As a result, the film becomes a slightly lopsided experience – with the beginning half of the film building an almost impossible tension that may not really be satisfactorily resolved by the film’s (too literal?) ending.

James Wan's INSIDIOUS

There is a stillness to Insidious that, in direct contrast to many other pieces in the genre, builds much of the film’s tension and ambiance.  For those with a fear of being watched, Insidious knows where you live and breathe.  Others, who love to be shocked and awed, may be disappointed.

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_tag_theVerdict2Insidious is a moderately (re)watchable film.  The same cannot be said for every entry into the horror film genre.  Many want to disgust you, shock you, disturb you to the point of making you look away from the screen.  What’s the point of that?  You’re there to see the movie, not look at the palms of your hands.  Sure, it’s great fun to be *that* unnerved in a safe environment, but it doesn’t do much in the way of telling a story.  It disengages the audience and results in the loss of their suspension of disbelief.

The true power of a horror film lies in its ability to draw its audience in, and keep them there – no matter how uncomfortable they may feel – to face those things that wait just beyond the darkness.

James Wan's INSIDIOUS

Would you let your kids watch it?  That’s a discussion for another writer on another blog – I’m not here to tell you if Insidious is “appropriate”, I’m not Big Sister.  I will say that, if pressed, it’s not exactly easy to come up with a moral bottom line to the film.  Is it to be always mindful of your actions?  Is it to respect all things, especially those for which our understanding is lax?  You be the judge.

And yes, some of the film may invoke laughter on your part.  It’s okay to laugh while you’re watching a horror film.  Who said it isn’t?  I know that the depiction of the demon lurking over Dalton’s empty body has garnered a lot of attention – some enthusiastic, some laughably negative – and I don’t know if it will reappear in the upcoming sequel to the film.  I do know this.  The red-faced demon is portrayed by Joseph Bishara, the film’s score composer and I’m sure he’ll be long remembered by an entire generation.

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Buy or Watch INSIDIOUS now, on Amazon

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7 responses to “Gear Up for Insidious: Chapter 2 with a Look Back at Insidious

  1. Pingback: Prepare to Return to the Further with Insidious Chapter 2 | c.taylor·

  2. Good review. Never seen this – Thinking I should finally check it out when I try to watch a bunch of horror movies through October. I’ve not really watched many current horrors as I find them all so disappointing.

  3. Thanks for stopping by!

    Horror films are definitely a state of mind, and not one all people enjoy being in. I recently found a decades-old diary in which a incredibly young version of myself wrote about how Saturdays were the best because you can stay up late and watch horror films. I was 6 years old! I have no idea how I was getting away with that business…

    Supernatural horror, or horror in general, is not for everyone. What makes INSIDIOUS work is its playfulness and, I’ll say it, its overtness – there’s nothing subtle about it. If you do get around to seeing it, let us know what you think of old Red Face!

  4. Oh, I’ll definitely do a review when I see it – I’ve put it on my “Halloween Horror Fest” list. 🙂 I did really enjoy The Conjuring so I suppose it’s worth checking Insidious out as well. I do like supernatural horror more than anything. The only thing I really can’t stand is all the torture porn these days. I know I liked horror much more when younger – I think I’m wussing out in my old age!

  5. I’m with you on the “torture porn” – can’t stand it, think it’s creatively pointless these days (not to mention a bit lazy).

    I *love* Lily Taylor – so THE CONJURING was well worth the ticket price for me even though I felt a bit let down by the film’s ending.

    Looking forward to your Halloween list!

  6. Pingback: Halloween Horror Fest | Cinema Parrot Disco·

  7. Pingback: Venture back into the Further with Insidious Chapter 2 |·

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